Cafe Cluny- Good Looking, But No Match for George

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Pants at a Glance
  • scene: Cozy, cute and West Villagey by design
  • sip: Delicious original cocktails
  • savor: Cheese plate; tuna burger...
  • sit: With a group of friends that you haven't seen in a while; with anyone who actually lives nearby; on a date, but not a first one, its a little obvious in its contrived nonchalance
  • spend: $$
  • address: 284 West 12th Street (at West 4th)
  • phone number: (212) 255-6900
  • website:

Cafe Cluny is so cozy and West Villagey,  it almost looks like a movie set or a commercial. This place, serving all three meals, practically begs to be called “local neighborhood joint”, but it is definitely more of a carefully orchestrated insistence rather than an organic bestowing of the title. With the soft lighting, “gathered” items arranged on the shelves, fresh flowers and cobblestone location, the “cute” factor is alarmingly high. In my opinion, while the overall aesthetic effect is almost intoxicating, there is one detail that this carefully constructed place overlooked: The menu.

The essence of the neighborhood joint is that there is a menu that you can return to over and over again.  I struggle to find that comfort with the Cafe Cluny menu.  I am not saying that what I eat there is not good- everything is executed well and the flavors are there, its just that there is nothing on the menu that I crave. My ordering process is usually a default one, not a proactive selection of something that I feel like eating. In fact, on my last visit, I decided to throw in the towel and made a meal out of a mixed greens salad and a cheese plate.  (Being able to order a cheese plate for dinner feels so rebellious and naughty to me, like I am finally an adult). The greens were nice enough (damn you, frisee), with a light balsamic and olive oil dusting.  The cheese plate was actually a perfect assortment, served with two types of toasted bread (toasting makes the biggest difference with a cheese plate) and a portion that actually filled me up.  A really pleasant meal, but not exactly what I set out to eat for dinner.

Two of my dining companions had the tuna burger, which was well seasoned and mated with some delicious fries.  The arctic char special was also enjoyable, with a mustard sauce, and maybe it is just me, but still nothing I would really want again. There are other standards on the menu, like a burger and steak frites, that could satisfy as well, but the identity of the menu is not clearly defined, especially in contrast to the surroundings.  The cocktail list, however, is creative but not in a fussy way, and offers some really delicious cocktails that perfectly pair ingredients in an original way.  The Framboise something was an inventive little dream that seemed to recall my college years: It paired Stoli Razberri with champagne, served in a martini glass, yes please…

Cafe Cluny is perfect for meeting a group of friends for boisterous conversation fueled by attractive lighting and delicious drinks. It is the ideal place when you want “something cute and casual” but secretly a little sceney.

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